The University of Minnesota wants the Washington Redskins to wear throwback jerseys without the team name or logo for the Nov. 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings being held at the college’s stadium.
The college, which is leasing its TCF Bank Stadium to the Vikings as the team’s new stadium gets built for a scheduled 2016 opening, has also asked that the game not have any Washington apparel or paraphernalia sold on the premise; that the word “Redskins” not be uttered by the game’s public address announcer; and that the team’s moniker not appear on the scoreboard or in the program guide or other game-related print or digital material.
Vikings officials appeared receptive to the university’s appeal during a meeting in late July, according to Katrice Albert, the college’s vice president in the office of equity and diversity.
“They said they’d make that request of the Washington team, but were not sure how it would be received,” she said. “The two Vikings officials said they are part of the NFL and don’t have the authority to force the hand to change the Washington name but understand it’s offensive to some members of our community. The Vikings have a great working relationship with the tribal nations of Minnesota, and they’re very understanding of how this team name and logo impacts our community.”
The university’s stadium features a Tribal Nations Plaza dedicated in honor of the 11 Native American tribes in Minnesota. It was built with a $10 million donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community — the largest private gift ever to Gophers athletics.
On Thursday, the tribe released a statement saying that it and other Minnesota tribes oppose the Redskins’ name “and other sports-related logos, mascots and names which degrade a race of people.” The community is working with the university to prepare “appropriate responses” to the NFL game and “minimize the damage that could be done by invoking the name in a place that respects and honors the Minnesota Native American community.”
A Vikings spokesman told The Post on Wednesday that the team was still trying to determine how it would handle the school’s request. Last year, hundreds of Native Americans and their supporters gathered outside the Metrodome before the Vikings played the Redskins to denounce the name of Washington’s team.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said Wednesday that the team disagrees with the school’s effort to bar the Redskins’ name at TCF Bank Stadium. “We have met many Native Americans from Minnesota who agree with our position and feel we are using the term correctly and honorably,” Wyllie said.
University officials said the use of the Redskins name at their stadium violates the institution’s affirmative action, diversity and equal opportunity policy. More than 1,100 students identify themselves as Native American throughout the University of Minnesota system.
Chuck Tombarge, a university spokesman, said the school has no recourse if the Vikings refuse to satisfy its requests. “Obviously, the Vikings are a good partner to Minnesota. We’ve outlined our suggestions and trust they will give them due diligence and will work on this as much as possible,” he said.
The Vikings and school officials are slated to meet again this month, with more meetings between then and game day.
The school is not the only entity pressuring the Vikings. Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum (D) sent a letter in June to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf urging him to condemn the Redskins’ team name and suggested he bears some responsibility to take a stand because NFL teams equally split the sales of every team’s licensed merchandise.
McColllum’s letter was carbon copied to the University of Minnesota’s president, Eric W. Kaler. He replied to her last week.
Joel Barkin, the spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation, which has worked with McCollum frequently in its campaign against the team’s name, applauded the school’s proactive stance and said the word should be banned at professional stadiums, too.
“Many of these professional stadiums receive large forms of public subsidies, so we plan on writing to each of the teams to follow the lead of Minnesota,” Barkin said. “It’s inappropriate for taxpayers to be subsidizing the endorsement of a racial slur.”